BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts is highlighting efforts to help small businesses survive the economic turmoil they have suffered because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This week, nearly 1,600 businesses received grants totaling $78.6 million through a state COVID-19 business grant program. It’s the third round of grants to be awarded since Dec. 21, Gov. Charlie Baker said at a news conference Thursday.

So far, the administration has awarded close to $195 million in direct financial support to more than 4,100 small businesses out of a $668 million fund set up to support small businesses across the state.

The help is targeted at businesses hit hardest by the pandemic, including restaurants, small retailers, and indoor entertainment venues, Baker said.

The remaining money will likely go to tens of thousands of businesses in the coming weeks, Baker said. Grants of up to $75,000 are still available, he added.

“The program we’re operating is the largest small business grant program using COVID relief funds currently in the United States,” the Republican said while visiting Ristorante Saraceno, a restaurant in Boston's North End.

Applications for the next round of grants are due by 11:59 p.m. Friday.

The program will offer grants of not more than three months’ operating expenses, to be used for payroll and employee benefit costs, mortgage interest, rent, utilities and interest on other debt obligations.

The grants are focused on restaurants, bars, caterers and food trucks; indoor recreation and entertainment establishments; gyms and fitness centers; event-support companies (photographers, videographers); personal services (nail salons, barbershops, independent pharmacies); and independent retailers.



The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths rose by 74 on Thursday while the number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 5,500.

The new deaths pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 13,156 and its confirmed caseload since the start of the pandemic to more than 433,000.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were more than 2,200 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 450 in intensive care units.

The average age of those hospitalized was 73. There were an estimated more than 91,000 current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.

The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 7,694.



The state should consider setting up COVID-19 vaccination centers near polling locations in upcoming local elections, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin suggested Thursday.

The move could help make it easier for those who are eligible for vaccination to receive their first shot in a nearby and convenient location after casting their ballot, Galvin said.

In a letter to Baker, Galvin pointed to a number of communities around the state holding elections in March, including Newton, Andover, Lexington, Wellesley, and Duxbury.

“Because of social distancing protocols which are already in effect, larger premises are being used already for voting,” the Democrat wrote.

All towns in Massachusetts will be holding their annual elections throughout the spring, overlapping with the period of time most residents are expected to be able to receive their first vaccination, Galvin added.